College costs and class disparity on campuses have been a persistent topic of conversation the last few weeks.
This article in the Kenyon Collegian this morning highlights the stress of financial aid packages the College is currently facing. The discussion of the inconsistency between budgeted aid projections and demonstrated need of students ignores what I think is an important detail: the cost to attend has increased by $10,000 in the four years I’ve attended. No wonder aid is needed? Meanwhile, some are questioning the morality of such debts. NYU professor Andrew Ross:
I can no longer fulfill my classroom duties without wondering if the ultimate price, for many of my students, is a form of indenture. This is not an extreme way of putting it. After all, the indentured have to go into debt in order to find work, and their wages are then used to pay off the debts. I have concluded that it is immoral to expect young people to privately debt-finance a basic social good like education, especially if we are telling them that a college degree is their passport to a livelihood that is increasingly thin on the ground.
In another Collegian article addressing financial aid and student housing disparities, my friend Monty remarked,
“There’s a very huge disconnect between the student body and accepting socio-economic differences because I think it’s an invisible diversity, and therefore nobody talks about it, and people feel ashamed because of it… I don’t think that necessarily it’s just housing that’s the problem. I think that it’s our culture — and not just within the Kenyon culture — it’s our society, where we don’t feel pride in our socio-economic differences.”
This is not a new issue at Kenyon or other, similar institutions. What is new, perhaps, is the boldness and openness with which my peers are confronting these issues. In an attempt to open dialogue on issues of diversity, identity, and inclusion, a student-led coalition, Project Open Voices, (of which I am a member) has been publishing narratives from students. Please take a minute and read this essay by my friend Jenny, about her experience with these issues.
Food for thought.